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I’ve been watching the baby powder/talc trials closely for the past several years. They feature some of the world’s best lawyers, and they are pushing the boundaries of scientific evidence. For anyone in the litigation business, the talc trials, as well as the trials involving the alleged cancer-causing properties of Monsanto’s herbicide Roundup, form a fascinating window into how big-ticket cases are being tried right now. In both lines of cases, plaintiffs are showing early dominance, and I think the defense accordingly needs to adjust both how it handles demonstrative evidence and how it deals with scientific evidence. Interestingly, both of these types of trials can be watched on the Courtroom View Network (CVN). I have long advocated that trial attorneys should be watching other trial attorneys on CVN because there’s almost no other way to see today’s great lawyers in action. In the most recent talc trial, famed plaintiffs lawyer Mark Lanier of Houston took on Johnson & Johnson, which makes talcum powder products. He asserted that his clients, 22 women who used the products, were exposed to asbestos found in talc and that this exposure caused them to contract ovarian cancer. The case is notable for many reasons. The result was certainly remarkable as this past July, plaintiffs were awarded nearly $4.7 billion in damages by a jury in a Missouri state court. The case is also one of the most high-profile cases to utilize genetic evidence. And that aspect was particularly interesting to me as this is an area that A2L and its partners at Innovative Science Solutions have been discussing for the last couple of years. We even held a conference on the topic of the use of genetic evidence in civil litigation. So let me discuss two aspects of this case. First, while I am not an expert in analyzing genetic evidence in civil cases, I do understand how to use it and how to present it. In this case, the defense was clearly reluctant to use genetic evidence, and it only lightly cross-examined plaintiffs’ genetics expert. I don’t know for sure, but I’ll speculate that like other defendants, Johnson & Johnson may have feared that by presenting genetic evidence as a defendant it would position the plaintiffs as a so-called eggshell plaintiffs, making liability easier for plaintiffs to prove. See takeaway #6 in this article where we discuss why this thinking is specious. Whether or not defendants were concerned about the role of genetics in conveying to the jury that these may be eggshell plaintiffs, Lanier appeared to adopt this approach anyway. He utilized genetics to affirmatively allege that the plaintiffs were especially vulnerable to the effects of talc. This highlights an apparent growing trend of the plaintiff utilizing genetics to demonstrate plaintiff susceptibility to alleged toxins and a need for the defense to effectively address and rebut this assertion. I haven’t seen that tactic before. and similarly situated defendants must get ready for this tactic in other cases. A good place to start would be talking to my friend and frequent collaborator Dr. David Schwartz at Innovative Science Solutions who is doing pioneering work with the group ToxicoGenomica. The second element of this trial that I found fascinating was Lanier’s use of demonstrative evidence. In most big-ticket litigation demonstrative evidence is exchanged a day or so before it is used, to allow for objections to be made. Clearly, Lanier has figured out a workaround by drawing (or having his colleague draw) a highly prejudicial demonstrative that for whatever reason the defense did get excluded. It's the featured picture in this article, but let me show you what I mean in this clickable video clip and transcript below from our friends at CVN. Here Mark Lanier perfectly combines the eggshell plaintiff approach with an objectionable piece of demonstrative evidence to powerfully drive a point home. His message is that some people are genetically more susceptible to cancer-causing agents like asbestos and that Johnson and Johnson and their baby powder products pushed plaintiffs over the cliff where cancer happens. Other free A2L Consulting resources related to genetics in civil litigation, litigation graphics, and demonstrative evidence include: With So Few Trials, Where Do You Find Trial Experience Now? 7 Key Takeaways from the Genetics in Civil Law Conference Free slide decks from the Genetics in Civil Law Conference Free E-Book: The Litigator's Guide to Combating Junk Science - 2nd Edition Repelling the Reptile Trial Strategy as Defense Counsel - Part 3 - Understanding the Bad Science The Importance of Litigation Graphics in Toxic Tort Litigation 10 Key Expert Witness Areas to Consider in Your Next Toxic Tort Case Free Download: Using Science to Prevail at Trial or As an Advocate 7 Reasons the Consulting Expert is Crucial in Science-Based Litigation Using Trial Graphics & Statistics to Win 12 Questions to Ask When Hiring a Trial Graphics Consultant Repelling the Reptile Trial Strategy as Defense Counsel - Part 1 Teaching Science to a Jury: A Trial Consulting Challenge 5 Valuable (and Free) Complex or Science-Focused Litigation Resources Winning BEFORE Trial - Part 3 - Storytelling for Lawyers

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Trial teams frequently wrestle with questions surrounding how simple a trial presentation should be. It’s a good thing to worry about. They worry about coming off as condescending. They worry about the story being impossible to simplify. They worry about what order to tell the story in. These are all understandable questions to wrestle with. Unfortunately, on the question of how simple a case should be made, I think most trial teams end up talking themselves out of the right answer. So here’s the answer in five parts.  A trial presentation should be so simple that: 

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Environmental Litigation and PowerPoint

Environmental law is something that I have found fascinating for decades. In fact, I was involved in environmental litigation even before I founded A2L more than 23 years ago. It was a topic I focused on during law school and during the summers when I worked for a major pharmaceutical company. Since then, A2L has been involved in more than 100 environmental and energy cases involving more than 10,000 cleanup sites. These cases have ranged in size from a few million at stake to over $20 billion at stake. All these cases have a few things in common. First, most clean air and clean water cases necessarily involve with complex scientific concepts. Often topics such as plume migration, organic chemistry, and the concept of parts per million must be explained to the jury, the ultimate factfinders, in an understandable way. For the last ten years, another thing has become ubiquitous in environmental and energy cases -- the extensive use of PowerPoint. Here are three examples of the use of PowerPoint to show how complex topics can be translated into easier-to-understand pictures. First, here is an example of PowerPoint (converted to video format for easy viewing) that shows how one can illustrate both historical contamination issues and modern soil sampling by combining PowerPoint, photography and some simple illustration. This presentation is typical of those presented by experts in groundwater contamination cases.   This next example is really a contract dispute with energy and environmental issues embedded in it. It is an example from one of the so-called Yucca Mountain cases. In this line of cases, because the government failed to build the Yucca Mountain nuclear waste storage site in Nevada, it is on the hook for ongoing damages for the costs of storing the waste, particularly spent nuclear fuel rods, at each nuclear power plant facility. Litigation occurs when the government and the plant operator cannot agree on the costs of this storage. This is an example of a PowerPoint that combines extensive technical illustration and PowerPoint to explain the hundreds of steps and the levels of complexity in removing the reactor pressure vessel and fuel rods from one facility. Hundreds of illustrations are loaded frame by frame into PowerPoint to create the feeling of an animation.

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by Tony Klapper Managing Director, Litigation Consulting A2L Consulting For the purpose of telling a story or presenting data, experts have, over the years, suggested two different approaches. I will call them the “static” approach and the “build” approach. The static approach, in the hands of outstanding practitioners of data presentation, can have memorable results. Essentially, it conveys a great many types of information simultaneously, using graphic elements to show the relationship among the different varieties of data. Long before the advent of computers, French civil engineer Charles Joseph Minard, a pioneer in the presentation of data, created brilliant drawings depicting Napoleon’s Russian military campaign of 1812. These are a classic example of the static approach. The drawings, published in 1869, show the size of Napoleon’s army at each point of the campaign, the distance traveled, the latitude and longitude, and other key pieces of information. The acclaimed contemporary information scientist Edward Tufte says Minard’s work is “probably the best statistical graphic ever drawn,” high praise indeed. Trial lawyers also need to tell stories and present complex data sets to juries. That, in fact, is a good summary of what trial lawyers do. Lawyers and clients sometimes ask us at A2L to use this “static” approach and create a demonstrative that “says it all” in one large graph or chart. However, despite Tufte’s praise for Minard’s classic design, we think that judges and juries often learn better from a “build” approach, which starts with the basics of a story and builds it up incrementally. In our view, there is great benefit to not overwhelming a jury but in reaching a result in baby steps, especially when using a PowerPoint presentation for a jury trial. If a jury went into deliberations using a Minard-type document, we are not sure that all the jurors would fully see the ramifications of all the data, no matter how skillfully it was presented. In fact, the presentation itself during trial may take too much time and may be ineffective—as the lawyer (or the witness) is trying to orient the jury as to what to focus on and not focus on at any particular moment in the narrative. People tend to learn incrementally, not all at once. When many variables need to be presented – say, corporate earnings and profits, the number of market competitors, and prices over time – we often prefer to start with a PowerPoint with just one of those variables and build it up slowly. Trials are one area of endeavor in which we think the “build” approach may work better than the “static” approach. Other free and popular A2L Consulting articles related to legal infographics, PowerPoint litigation graphics, PowerPoint presentation for a jury trial, and demonstrative evidence generally: 16 PowerPoint Litigation Graphics You Won't Believe Are PowerPoint 15 Fascinating Legal and Litigation Infographics Information Design and Litigation Graphics Litigators, Portray Your Client As a Hero In 17 Easy Storytelling Steps Litigation Graphics, Psychology and Color Meaning 6 Studies That Support Litigation Graphics in Courtroom Presentations How Much Text on a PowerPoint Slide is Too Much? 9 Things I’ve Noticed About Effective Litigation Graphics After 20 Years as a Litigator 16 Litigation Graphics Lessons for Mid-Sized Law Firms 17 Reasons Why Litigation Consultants Are Better at Graphics Than Law Firms Why Trial Tech ≠ Litigation Graphics Good-Looking Graphic Design ≠ Good-Working Visual Persuasion 12 Reasons Litigation Graphics are More Complicated Than You Think

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by Maureen Vogel Litigation Graphics Artist A2L Consulting Before becoming an artist here at A2L Consulting, I was what you might call a typical graphic designer. I specialized in creating visual art, primarily for nonprofit organizations in the Washington, DC area. My primary focus was usually to visually convey a single important message with each graphic. I’d never concerned myself personally or professionally with the world of litigation. When I was a graphic designer, the software platforms Photoshop, Illustrator and InDesign were my standard canvas. However, as a litigation graphics artist, I usually stick to PowerPoint as the fundamental visual presentation tool. Although graphics may often incorporate visual concepts developed outside the PowerPoint platform, this is the foundation for presentation, and much of my artwork is now done in PowerPoint itself (and sometimes in Keynote for Apple devices). PowerPoint is a surprisingly powerful tool. In addition, I have noticed that there are quite a few differences between graphic design and litigation graphics art. Here are some of the differences I have observed that I find most interesting. 1. Color psychology is very important in litigation-focused graphics. Yes, color psychology is important in the graphic design realm as well. But in litigation graphics, using the wrong colors in court could offend your audience or negatively affect their mood. That would be a catastrophe. One example I’ve encountered at work was when the client asked me to change a list of people’s names on a PowerPoint slide from black to red. Red is a color we generally try to avoid in PowerPoint slides because it can increase aggressive feelings in audience members (jurors). Also, I had my own personal aversion to red; depending on the culture, the color red can also invoke very different emotions. For example, in Japan, my home country, writing a person’s name in red means that person will die soon. This would accordingly evoke a very specific emotion in the wrong audience. Because the client’s goal in changing the black font to red was simply to make it more visible and not necessarily to invoke feelings of alarm or aggression toward the people listed, we suggested a brighter blue font instead of red. Almost any color you can think of invokes a specific emotional response, so plan accordingly for your litigation graphics. A2L is looking for talented graphic designers! Read more here.

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by Ken Lopez Founder/CEO A2L Consulting In my last post, 7 Bad Habits of Law Firm Litigators, I wrote about the problems caused by litigators who, even when they have an adequate budget, design their own PowerPoint slides for trial. I've seen this result in: demonstrative evidence being excluded for using inappropriate tactics; demonstrative evidence being used for outright misconduct; opportunities being missed to use persuasion tricks of the trade; lawyers getting stuck in a chronological recitation of the facts; an overall lack of anything memorable or creative being presented; the use of out-of-date techniques like bullet points that damage credibility; and many other things that, as I said a few Halloween's ago, can lead to a deMONSTERative evidence nightmare. Well, there's new problem to add to this list of challenges faced by litigators who design their own slides, and it was just revealed by a brand new study conducted by the Missouri School of Journalism and the Washington Post.

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by Kenneth J. Lopez, J.D. Founder/CEO A2L Consulting Lawyers love words. Lawyers love words on slides - tons of words on slides. Some lawyers think that the more words they use on a PowerPoint litigation graphic, the better. They are wrong. Actually, using too many words on a slide will dramatically damage your effectiveness. This damage is not aesthetic in nature. This is not about your look and feel. It is scientifically proven damage that affects how well you inform and persuade your audience. Indeed, it can be said the higher your slide's word count, the lower your persuasiveness.

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by Ryan H. Flax (Former) Managing Director, Litigation Consulting A2L Consulting I am not advocating that you spend more to develop top-notch demonstrative evidence. What I want you to do is make sure that the litigation graphics that you do use look like you paid a million bucks for them. Make sure you’re getting what you’re paying for. Let me explain why. Recently published and widely reported research out of the University of Cincinnati relating to treating Parkinson’s disease shows that the placebo effect is a real thing and a powerful psychological phenomenon. Interestingly, what the study also shows is that it matters greatly to those experiencing a strong placebo effect how much they believed the pseudo-pharmaceutical cost. Amazingly, seemingly-more-expensive drugs turned out to be much better “drugs” in effect (even though they were not drugs at all). The more a patient believed a drug cost (here the artificial difference was $100 vs $1,500 per dose), the more effective it was at treating their symptoms of Parkinson’s. Perception of cost was capable of influencing physical and psychological behavior and responses on a subconscious level. Wow.

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